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Turning Technicians Into Service Advisors

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“If there is one thing our industry has done since the very beginning, it’s put technicians into the role of service advisors,” says Mike Davidson, owner of Parkway Automotive in Little Rock, Ark., and a business coach for Elite Worldwide. The rationale is that technicians have a good understanding of vehicles, which will enable them to be competent advisors. Unfortunately, Davidson explains, that’s far from the truth.

There’s a distinct difference in the character traits of a technician versus a service advisor, and although an in-depth understanding of automobiles can be an asset, there are a number of other things you should consider before offering a service advisor position to one of your techs. Davidson discusses how to tell if a technician could become a successful service advisor.

First and foremost, you need to consider why they want the position, or why you are offering it to them. For a lot of these guys, as they get older, they’re looking for something different because it becomes difficult to work on cars. You never want to make hiring decisions out of necessity over interest. If that’s the case or you’re moving them into advisor positions even if they’ve shown little interest in the past, there’s a good chance it won’t work out.

Another major mistake is shop owners put far too much value on the technician’s technical skills, and far too little value on the tech’s natural people talents and their passion for the position. I personally believe it is helpful for a service advisor to have mechanical knowledge and he should attend some of the schools techs do (and vice versa), but I don’t think a truly good technician can become a truly great advisor. You really need to understand how important people skills are to the advisor position and consider the following traits:

1. First of all, when it comes to selling auto repairs and services, natural talent trumps technical skills. A high performer naturally smiles, has a positive attitude, communicates well, solves problems and adapts to hurdles. If you think about it, a good technician takes things one at a time and stays focused on that task until it gets done. Service advisors, on the other hand, have to spin plates and keep multiple things going on at the same time. We are big believers in Burke behavioral testing and they can provide good insight into the natural inclinations of an employee.

2. Secondly, you will need to evaluate how well he or she will be accepted in the advisor role by your other employees. If the candidate has a good relationship with your other employees, and if you feel your employees will be willing to take directions and orders from the candidate, then they may very well be a good fit for an advisor position.

3. Lastly, you need to provide the employee a realistic view of the position. They need to know the benefits, of course, but don’t oversell it and leave out the negatives.

If you determine that the technician would be a good fit, I would recommend sending the tech to a few classes initially to expose him to what’s required. He needs to understand exactly what a service advisor is supposed to be able to do, not just his own perceptions of the position. Take a look at the results of the Burke assessment and use that as a guide to determine their strengths and weaknesses, which you can then train to.

Next, I recommend having he/she help out on the front counter and shadow a current service advisor. That’s your opportunity to pay close attention and see how he handles that position, if he asks questions to gain greater clarity, support his peers, takes company promises seriously, handles his emotions well, etc. There’s a good chance that after exposing the technician to the reality, he may say, “It’s not for me.”

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